The Doctrine of Connection

The nursery rhyme, This is the House that Jack Built, captures a common — yet ultimately frivolous — way of understanding the world.

The poem recites a collection of random things which all relate, by coincidence, back to the same original random thing, a house built by someone named Jack. It is gratifying in the end to see the picture of the whole in all its colorful complexity. Until, that is, one realizes that similar stories can be told starting with any object; indeed, a whole collection of radically different stories could be built from each of the “actors” in the nursery rhyme itself. One world becomes many worlds, infinitely.

Despite the nursery rhyme’s ultimate absurdity a similar way of thinking often occurs among adults. We say, for example, “Everything and everyone is connected,” as if that were important to know. In our own lives, however, it is vastly more important to know where Jack built the house and how, and who Jack is, and why there was malt in the house, and how the rat got in, and what caused the cat to kill the rat, and so on.

Here’s the text:

This is the house that Jack built.

This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the judge all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the rooster that crowed in the morn
That woke the judge all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the farmer sowing his corn
That kept the rooster that crowed in the morn
That woke the judge all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the horse and the hound and the horn
That belonged to the farmer sowing his corn
That kept the rooster that crowed in the morn
That woke the judge all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

11 thoughts on “The Doctrine of Connection

  1. In any economic model, we are studying the exchange of goods and services at multiple levels both macro and micro.

    You can’t exchange anything without some connection to the rest of the world. Both for trade and production, including services.

    Your education, your suppliers, your labor, your facilities and your buyers were all in place long before you could wipe your own nose. As a productive innovator, you hop on the train when ready, do your thing with all the others, and hop off into the sunset when time expires.

    There is your interconnectedness you are so unable to accept.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: “In any economic model, we are studying the exchange of goods and services at multiple levels both macro and micro.”

      Surely there are economic models that study other things?

      Like

      1. Think of one. Use your imagination. The “consumer” in “consumer economy” is redundant. Remember, economy is not a natural occurrence. It is 100% man made.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Adam Smith’s division of labor model comes to mind, but just about any topic in macroeconomics would also serve.

          Like

        1. RE: “What is your point with regards to ‘other things’?”

          Exchange is fundamental to economics, but equally fundamental are production and consumption.

          In terms of the nursery rhyme, knowing that everything is connected to the house that Jack built may be interesting, but it doesn’t tell us much.

          Like

          1. Production and consumption are part of the connectedness. I ran a business for 4 decades and connecting with, getting and keeping customers is critical. Without them I was just taking pretty pictures for my wall.

            I learned the craft from people who went before me. I rented, then bought, a studio (my “factory”) through contacts I made. Repairs, supplies were all part of the shop. Again, more connections. Finance? Connections.

            Unless you live on a deserted island, you will have connections to survive. And even if you are on the island, what you learned before, from others past and present, will determine your success.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. RE: “Production and consumption are part of the connectedness.”

            So are the Sun and the Moon.

            Like

  2. Certainly we are interconnected, the difference is how.

    In a truly free market all transactions are voluntary and take place only if both parties benefit.

    The other alternative is plunder, to some degree, in which one party benefits at the expense of the other.

    Which is the ethical choice?

    Like

  3. “In a truly free market all transactions are voluntary and take place only if both parties benefit.”

    Okay. Find one. Theory and practice, Doc. Remember, caveat emptor is Latin, but I’ll bet you can find it written in sanskrit too.

    Liked by 2 people

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